There is an excellent channel on YouTube called the “Photographic Eye” and he recently posted a vlog on how new kit is irrelevant to the quality of the images that we produce, an obvious statement that most people will agree with without hesitation I’m sure ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CA9ZzqlkGg ) .
This has been something that has been said many times over the years by many different people but the reason it struck me quite strongly was because of another YouTube vlog I had recently watched by Kai W on the latest firmware updates to the Nikon Z9- ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd52zDznLMI&t=291s )
Without a shadow of doubt, the Nikon Z9 is an extremely well specified camera that goes a bit beyond its £6k price tag, it has a veritable smorgasbord of video centric as well as stills capabilities as do its Canon R3 and the Sony A1 rivals. Kai is an amusing presenter but as he and others took the Z9 through its paces at a Skateboard/BMX park, I increasingly came to asking one question that applies to all these brands and models, WHY ?
The answer of course is fairly obvious at least to their marketing departments, these expensive bits of kit take a lot of time to develop, they are not something an engineering department knocks up in an afternoon. They are also aimed at working professionals not the average photographic enthusiast, will be in use for some years so they are tough and they try to make them future proof by providing technical “overkill” compared to current use requirements.
Yes It’s an Age Thing
I do have a different take on these things because I’m 76 years old. Even if I had the cash, would I want to put in the time to learn how to use such a “new toy”, whoever made it ? My gut instinct is probably no, I would lack the inclination to even bother because all the 8K video and other stuff would mean bugger all to me. Besides which my technical knowledge of computing tells me that I would need to spend as much if not more again on computers and data storage to process and edit the results from such a camera.
There is also something else that comes to mind, just how future proof can you make any kit ? There is a reality here based upon experience. Having ‘churned’ my camera gear over the past decade or so, I have had a number of camera bodies which I have moved on through trade ins and so on. One of the bodies I had which got traded in for my 5DS was a 5D MkII which might have been one of the earlier DSLRs to include full HD movie potential back in 2008, Nikon with their D90 beat them by a month to market I believe.
However and although since that time every camera comes with more and more movie potential, the difference and convenience involved in shooting video has changed out of all recognition. I for one wouldn’t consider using a DSLR for the job, because mirrorless bodies are a direct descendant from video cameras and they are far better suited to the job. Additionally whilst we certainly live in a video centric age, how much content and however poor, is being generated on smartphones rather than pro kit ?
Back to Hardware
I have quite a number of different if rather older cameras, does that mean that I suffer from GAS – gear acquisition syndrome ? I would say no because each serves a specific purpose whether as a DSLR, mirrorless or wet film camera plus they all do get rotated and used, none are ornaments.
I will admit that in the last 6 months I have bought two camera bodies that I ‘didn’t need’ out of curiosity and both have turned out to be enjoyable in their own ways. One the 1D MkIV (originally a MkIII, story elsewhere on this site) is just a sheer joy and fun to use, the other an M5 just a totally interesting body designed compared to my M, M10 and M6 MkII with its inbuilt viewfinder.
The other camera that I ‘didn’t need’ was a gift, the original Yashica LM I had used to teach myself photography back in the 1970s but these apart and there is no ‘surplus’ lying around. Neither do I harbour any burning desires to buy into this spangly new camera system or that because I have what I need is the truth.
I have already written a piece on the M5 and how in using it has demonstrated to me how a MkII version based around the innards of the M6 MkII would have been an excellent camera to use but it also demonstrates something else, how things change over quite short time periods and the M series are not complex cameras.
The M5 and M6
The M5 was launched in September 2016, the following April came the M6 which whilst technically identical in terms of features, just didn’t have the M5s built in viewfinder. It was only in September of 2019 that Canon launched the M6 MkII which in technical terms, is chalk and cheese from the original M6. Especially true when it comes to 4k video which the original M6 lacked and which is superior to even Canon’s best selling mirrorless camera which does have 4k, the M50 that came out in 2018.
Perhaps the key point here is that in technical terms, the M series cameras are not designed as ‘professional’ cameras, they are aimed squarely at the consumer market and yet in a few short years 2016 to 2019, there has been a radical technical upgrade between the M5 and the M6 MkII.
This leads me to question the whole concept of trying to “future proof” cameras both in technical terms and also in terms of customer needs and use. Will your average professional photographer demand 8k ? And if 8k is the ‘thing’, what will it be used for and might not better quality 4k in fact deliver a more appropriate solution ?
In purely personal terms and how things currently stand, I won’t be stretching my meagre budget for bright new shiny things, I have all the tools I need for what I want to do and besides which, at my age I may well run out of time sooner rather than later anyway… Should I by some strange series of events end up with the kind of cash these “super special” pro cameras from Nikon, Sony and Canon cost, I wouldn’t buy any of them but I know what I might. We are talking silly money for a consumer level photographer but because I like DSLRs for stills photography, I might well consider a ‘low mileage’ second hand 1D MkIII but even then you are likely talking about £5k ! But to me that might make sense from a usability perspective for me.